UNC/HPU Poll: N.C. Voters Don’t Rely on Social Media or Candidate Websites for Election Information

High Point University Poll

HIGH POINT, N.C., Oct. 17, 2012 – A UNC/HPU Poll, conducted on the High Point University campus with support and collaboration from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, finds that most North Carolina registered voters rely on political news and opinion websites for information about politics and the election more than they rely on social media pages or a candidate’s own website.

The poll found that 58 percent acknowledged visiting political news and opinion sites while less than a majority – 40 percent – say they get information from official candidate websites. And only 23 percent say they go to a candidate’s social media site like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. Overall, survey respondents appear to be more likely to visit political news and opinion sites to gather information than to get it straight from the candidates themselves. 

Regarding what they specifically search for on these sites, more than 80 percent of respondents say they look for information about candidates’ stances on the issues, and 62 percent say they look for information about candidates’ previous political experience. Slightly fewer – 53 percent – go online to find information about the candidates’ personal backgrounds.

The poll also found that 92 percent of North Carolinians surveyed say they have access to the Internet whether at work, at home or somewhere else. 

“The Internet in all its forms is a fairly significant force in the political process these days,” said Dr. Daniel Riffe, the Richard Cole Eminent Professor in UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Candidates and their campaigns have to be as engaged on the ‘Net as they are in debates, television advertising, and other places. Even ‘narrower’ social media like Facebook and Twitter drew a quarter of North Carolina voters, according to our data. To me this signals a fairly active segment of political information seekers that we may not have witnessed before.”

“The Internet is a key source of political information and news. These days almost all voters are online and the Internet’s influence is growing,” said Dr. Martin Kifer, director of the HPU Poll. “But despite the attention that has been given to the emergence of social media, it is still not the first place people look for political news. We will be tracking these trends carefully in the future.”


Access to the Internet – Registered voters

Now I would like to ask you some questions about the Internet. Do you have access to the Internet through a computer at work, at home or some other place?

Yes – 92 percent

No – 8 percent

(Don’t know/refused) – 0 percent


Sources of Political Information and News – Registered Voters

When you go online to get news or information about politics or elections, do you ever do any of the following things?  (Responses based on 556 respondents who have access to the Internet.)

First, do you ever. . .

Look for information about a candidate’s stance on the issues

Yes – 82 percent

No – 17 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

Look for information about a candidate’s previous political experience

Yes – 62 percent

No – 37 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

Go to any of the websites that specialize in political news or opinion

Yes – 58 percent

No – 40 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

Look for information about a candidate’s personal background

Yes – 53 percent

No – 45 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

Go to a candidate’s official campaign website

Yes – 40 percent

No – 59 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

Go to a candidate’s social media site like Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace.

Yes – 23 percent

No – 76 percent

(Don’t know/Refuse) – 1 percent

With support and collaboration from Riffe at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the High Point University Survey Research Center, the survey was fielded from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 to Oct. 10, 2012. The responses came from 605 registered voters with landline or cellular telephones in North Carolina selected by a Random Digit Dial (RDD) method giving the overall survey a margin of sampling error of approximately 4 percentage points. Registered voters were identified as responding “yes” to this question: These days, many people are so busy they can’t find time to register to vote, or move around so often they don’t get a chance to re-register. Are you NOW registered to vote in your precinct or election district here in North Carolina or haven’t you been able to register so far? For smaller subsamples, including those before and after the debate, the margin of sampling error is larger. The data are weighted toward population estimates for age and race. The population estimates for race were taken from North Carolina Board of Elections data for the week of Oct. 6. The population estimates for age were taken from the U.S. Census estimates of registered voters for North Carolina. In addition to sampling error, factors such as question wording and other methodological choices in conducting survey research can introduce additional error into the findings of opinion polls.

Further results and methodological details from the survey and can be found at the Survey Research Center website at http://src.highpoint.edu/

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